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Bill Parcells: Record doesn't reflect Doug Marrone's performance

By Tim Graham

Good coaches get drummed out of the NFL on a regular basis.

"Sometimes," Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells said, "the situation will not let you win."

In a conversation for an NFL Sunday about the pressures of the football coaching lifestyle, Parcells commented that no coach is immune from stress. Even the coaches who are doing a good job must deal with anxiety, stress, depression and the like.

Parcells: "Now, I'm just going to ask you a question. You answer me dead honestly. You think Doug Marrone's doing a good job?"

Me: "I think so, yes."

Parcells: "I do, too. Now, what's his record?"

Me: "Three and six."

Parcells: "That's right. But I watch this team play, and I have an idea of their shortcomings. I think they're pretty well-prepared. They compete pretty much every Sunday. It doesn't go right all the time, but they compete, don't they?"

Me: "They do."

Parcells said: "So you know it, and I know it. But when it's all over, that record, whatever it is, that's what you are. You put a couple of those unsuccessful seasons together, and you don't get any more chances.

"To the layman, it looks one way. To the professional, like me, it looks another way. I think he's doing a pretty damn good job. I can tell things by watching the team."

Down to the letter, Doug Marrone knows when he'll walk away

By Tim Graham

Doug Marrone, fresh from practice, still had rubber pellets from the field house's artificial turf embedded in his knees. He had been working earnestly with the Buffalo Bills' offensive linemen after Thursday's practice.

In an office at One Bills Drive, we sat and talked about the stresses that come with an NFL coach's exhausting lifestyle. My NFL Sunday story takes a look at how ruthless the grind can be. Last weekend, two NFL coaches were hospitalized with serious conditions.

Marrone at some point made a comment about when the time will come for him to walk away from the job.

"Hold on," I interjected. "You think you'll be able to do that?"

The job can be addictive. Retirement, by comparison, feels like a death row for some coaches.

Marrone responded quickly and provided insight into his long-term career philosophy.

Just as Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells revealed for The Buffalo News this week, Marrone holds onto inspirational items that help him maintain perspective. Marrone keeps this one on his desk at home. He insisted the letter, written to Phil Fulmer, will serve as his barometer for moving forward or hanging up his whistle someday.

"It's the first letter I'd written, looking for a job. It was a graduate assistant's job at the University of Tennessee. I'd just gotten done playing.

"I keep that letter to remind that if I don't feel the same way now that I did when I wrote that letter, I'm not coaching anymore.

"There's two things I've always said -- and this is probably the only place I've been where I didn't say it to management -- but I've always said the same thing: 'If I'm ever in a position where I come in and I don't like what I do or I don't like who I coach, I'm done. I don't care what the contract says or what you do.' I believe that.

"I have that letter, and it reminds me if I'm not that way every single day, then I don't deserve to have this job. The sport has done so much for me, and I have such a responsibility for this region and this organization to bring this team back. For me, I take it very seriously."

Bill Parcells narrates 'some pretty powerful stuff' on coaching

By Tim Graham

Over the decades, Bill Parcells has compiled a collection of inspirational reading materials.

"Stuff that I like," the Hall of Fame coach says over the phone while sifting through it.

Parcells has kept General MacArthur's "Creed for Youth," an Abraham Lincoln speech, Bear Bryant's principles, Warren Buffett quotes, "Casey at the Bat" and "The Ballad of Yukon Jake."

He doesn't remember where he obtained perhaps his most treasured clip. It's from a book called "The Coaches." He doesn't know the author, although a deep online search returns the name Bill Libby. It was published in 1972.

"It's something I've had with me for 40 years," Parcells says. "I don't know how I got it. I just came upon this, and I have it laminated."

Parcells calls the essay he's about to read to me "the truth" about what it means to be a coach, a grueling profession that's not easily understood.

"This really is it," Parcells says. "I have looked at it hundreds of times over the years. It's just something that kind of hit me. You live alone. It's the loneliest."

Parcells notes that he has tried to warn all of the assistants who've worked for him and struck out on their own as head coaches -- Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin, Sean Payton among them -- the job isn't so glamorous.

I've called to Parcells to speak about an exhausting profession that can wreck minds and bodies. An in-depth feature with comments from Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone, former coach Marty Schottenheimer, sports psychologist Cal Botterill and Parcells will run in Sunday's paper.

Denver Broncos coach John Fox had an aortic valve replacement this week. Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak collapsed with a mini-stroke at halftime Sunday night.

Parcells had bypass surgery in 1992, when he was 50 and in between coaching the New York Giants and New England Patriots. Mike Ditka suffered a massive heart attack at 49 while coaching the Chicago Bears in 1988. Dan Reeves had in-season heart procedures at 46 and 54 years old, the latter a quadruple bypass.

The pressures, guilt, fatigue and burnout of coaching contribute to some tortured souls.

"Now, the rewards are pretty great if you're successful," Parcells says of being a coach. "But success really is never final in this business. Failure can be."

And now Parcells wants to share the essay because he thinks it can help him explain the life of a head coach better than he can.

"This is some pretty powerful stuff in my opinion," Parcells says.

He begins (click on the audio link below to hear it in Parcells' own words) ...

"He is called coach. It is a difficult job, and there is no clear way to succeed at it. One cannot copy another who was a winner for there seems to be some subtle, secret chemistry of personality that enables a person to lead successfully, and no one really knows what it is.

"Those who have succeeded and those who have failed represent all kinds -- young and old, inexperienced and experienced, hard and soft, tough and gentle, good-natured and foul-tempered, proud and profane, articulate and inarticulate, even dedicated and casual. Most are dedicated, some more than others. Some are smarter than others. But intelligence is not enough. All want to win, but some want to win more than others. And just wanting to win is not enough in any event. Even winning is often not enough. Losers almost always get fired, but winners get fired, too.

"He's out in the open, being judged publicly almost every day or night for six to seven or eight months a year by those who may or may not be qualified to judge him. And every victory and every defeat is recorded constantly in print or on the air and periodically totaled up.

"The coach has no place to hide. He cannot just let the job go for a little while or do a bad job and assume no one will notice, as most of us can. He cannot satisfy everyone. Seldom can he even satisfy very many. Rarely can he even satisfy himself. If he wins once, he must win the next time, too. They plot victories, they suffer defeats, endure criticism from within and without. They neglect their families, they travel endlessly and live alone in a spotlight, surrounded by others.

"Theirs may be the worst profession -- unreasonably demanding and insecure and full of unrelenting pressures. Why do they put up with it? Why do they do it? Having seen them hired and hailed as geniuses in gaudy, party-like press conferences, and then having seen them fired with pat phrases such as 'fool' or 'incompetent,' I've wondered about them. Having seen them exalted in victory and depressed by defeat, I have sympathized with them. Having seen some broken by the jobs and others die from it, one is moved to admire them and hope that someday the world will learn to understand them."

Bill Parcells: Fred Jackson 'could've been in Roger Craig's shoes'

By Tim Graham

Bill Parcells' fondness for Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson has been written about before at Press Coverage.

Here are some more words of respect from the Hall of Fame coach.

For my NFL Sunday feature this week, I called Parcells to hear his insight on the evolution of the fullback.

A conversation with Parcells involves a few key catchphrases for emphasis: "Now lookit ..." "You listening here?" "You follow?"

When discussing how the NFL went away from the Larry Csonka and Franco Harris fullbacks of the 1970s to the West Coast versions of the 1980s, he made it a point to bring up Jackson.

Continue reading "Bill Parcells: Fred Jackson 'could've been in Roger Craig's shoes'" »

Is Bill Parcells a Hall of Famer if Scott Norwood's kick is good?

By Tim Graham

CANTON, Ohio -- James Lofton's face contorted into a mock scowl by recalling how Bill Parcells cemented a coaching legacy.

Lofton entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2003 with zero Super Bowl rings. The closest he came was with the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV, the second and final title of Parcells' career.

Scott Norwood's kick went ... Well, you know where it went.

"That's where you realize," Lofton said, "what a thin line it is between being world champion and not being world champion."

Parcells will join Lofton in the Hall of Fame on Saturday night. The Class of 2013 also includes guard Larry Allen, receiver Cris Carter, defensive tackle Curley Culp, left tackle Jonathan Ogden, linebacker Dave Robinson and defensive tackle Warren Sapp.

Parcells still would have been a champion had the Bills won that night. He'd previously guided the New York Giants to a title.

But maybe he doesn't get into the Hall of Fame with only one Super Bowl ring.

"I guess it would have been different," Parcells told me today. "I don't know. That's football.

"There are a lot of things that could turn people's fates. I can tell you this: I was thinking to myself, 'You know, it's going to be a shame if we lose this game today,' because I really felt like we'd outplayed them from beginning to end pretty much."

The Giants defeated the Bills, 20-19, in the closest Super Bowl of all-time. No other Super Bowl has been decided by less than three points.

The Bills drove to the Giants' 30-yard line with eight seconds left. Norwood lined up for a 47-yard field-goal attempt.

"First off all, he hadn't made a kick on grass from over 40 yards all year," Parcells said today, although Norwood actually did make one from 41 yards away. "So that would've been an unusual circumstance if he'd made it.

"And I was told that information right at the time the kick was being executed because both Raul Allegre and Matt Bahr said to me, 'Bill, he hasn't made one this long all year on grass.' "

Norwood's kick didn't go through the uprights.

The Bills returned to the Super Bowl three more times, losing them all. The Bills still sent several players to the Hall of Fame: Jim Kelly, Thurman Thomas, Bruce Smith, Lofton and probably Andre Reed someday.

"Now, they were very talented," Parcells said. "And they did have a chance to win it. But fortunately they didn't."

Parcells coached 19 seasons and had just five losing seasons for the Giants, New England Patriots, New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys.

I asked if he allows himself to think about the bounces of fate. He might have been replaying Tony Romo's fumbled field-goal snap in the 2006 postseason as he replied.

"There were other plays that went against me that may have, you know ..." Parcells said before pausing to think for a nice word, "helped, let's say."

Audio: Bills, Jairus Byrd dispute explored on Shredd and Ragan

By Tim Graham

With Shredd and Ragan this morning on 103.3 The Edge, we dissected Jairus Byrd's contract dispute with the Buffalo Bills and the influence of agent Eugene Parker.

Much of the segment (posted below for you to hear) was based on a Buffalo News feature story I wrote about Parker in June and a recent declaration from former Bills guard Ruben Brown that Parker is "a total chump."

As detailed in my story, people on both sides of the negotiating table -- Jerry Jones, Bill Parcells, Andrew Brandt, Deion Sanders and Curtis Martin among them -- disagree with Brown's assessment.

I must correct an erroneous statement made on the segment. I mistakenly said Sports Illustrated recently named Parker the fourth most influential agent in any sport. SI listed Parker sixth overall and third in the NFL.

Also explored with Shredd and Ragan were the abstract terms being reported in regard to Byrd's negotiations. Being the "highest-paid this" or among the "top three highest-paid that" is meaningless unless you know how the Bills or Parker define "highest-paid."

Highest-paid based on total dollars? Highest-paid based on average salary? Highest-paid based on guaranteed money? Highest-paid based on 2013 salary or dollars at the end of contract?

How many years are in the offer? Is the contract front-loaded, so the player gets most of his base-salary money early? Is the contract back-loaded, so the team can cut the player before they pay him some of his larger base salaries?

Just points to consider on what's sure to be a storyline that won't go away any time soon.

An ode to Hall of Famer Bill Parcells

By Mark Gaughan

NEW ORLEANS -- Coach Bill Parcells was the No. 1 man on the list of Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees in this voter's view, after listening to eight hours of discussion during the selection meeting Saturday.

You can't write the history of pro football without Parcells. He won Super Bowls with the New York Giants in the 1986 and 1990 seasons. His Giants blew out the Denver Broncos in the former title game and edged the Bills, 20-19, in the latter.

The talent level between the Bills and Giants in 1990 was a lot closer than Bills fans like to acknowledge. New York had the No. 2-ranked scoring defense in the league that year and was No. 1 in yards allowed. The Bills were sixth in points allowed and eighth in yards allowed. The Giants set an NFL record at the time for fewest turnovers given away in a season. Still, the Bills had the overall talent edge.

Continue reading "An ode to Hall of Famer Bill Parcells" »

Bill Parcells can't get enough of Fred Jackson


By Tim Graham

Towards the end of a conversation today with Bill Parcells about his old friend, Buffalo Bills quarterbacks assistant David Lee, I asked the two-time Super Bowl-winning head coach if he had any other thoughts about the team.

Did he ever.

Parcells, a throwback coach who loves throwback players, raved about one of his favorite players in the game.

"I think that Fred Jackson guy that they have there -- and this is just my opinion from watching him -- I think he's a tremendous player," Parcells said. "The reason I say that is this guy can do everything. He can run and he can block and he can catch. There aren't many of those guys left. That guy's a football player. The Bills are lucky to have him.

"When you see him, you tell him there's a dinosaur coach that thinks a lot of him. I like him a lot. A whole lot."

Jackson was having an All-Pro caliber season when a fractured leg shut him down. In 10 games, Jackson rushed for 934 yards and six touchdowns and caught 39 passes for 442 yards. He averaged 5.5 yards a carry and 11.3 yards a reception, both career-highs.

Jackson, who turned 31 in February, has completely recovered from the injury and has been full-go in offseason workouts. The Bills signed Jackson to a two-year contract extension last month.

"The position he plays is pretty unique as a production position because there's no prototype," Parcells said. "Either you gain yards or you don't.

"You look at the history of the game and productive running backs come in all shapes and sizes. You have Jim Brown, and you have Barry Sanders. You have Marcus Allen, and you have John Riggins. You have Walter Payton, and you have O.J. Simpson. You have Emmitt Smith, and you have Jerome Bettis. You have Gale Sayers, and you have Curtis Martin.

"It's a production position, and Jackson produces. Plus, he can catch the ball. He's a legitimate threat in the passing game."

Parcells' affinity for any player is based on whether or not he performs. But Jackson's background impresses Parcells even more.

Jackson didn't start for his high school team and went undrafted out of Division III Coe College. He meandered through the minor leagues before landing a spot with the Bills practice squad in 2006.

"The percentages are like point-3 of a percent of those guys making it," Parcells said. "I've done those studies. It's not 1 percent; it's less than 1 percent. You get down to Division II, and you're under 3 percent.

"When you see this guy and watch him play, you understand why he was the exception rather the rule."

(Photo: James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)


About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |